Confusion exists about buckling up

More San Benito County motorists are making the effort to buckle
up their children. The problem is more of them are doing it
More San Benito County motorists are making the effort to buckle up their children. The problem is more of them are doing it incorrectly.

According to a recent survey by local health and safety advocates, the number of San Benito County motorists using child safety seats incorrectly is higher than the state average.

Statewide, approximately 87 percent of motorists misuse or improperly install child safety seats. In San Benito County, about 96.4 percent of motorists are misusing the seats, said San Benito County Health Educator Suzi Deeb.

“It is just as important to use a safety seat correctly as it is to have one in the car,” she said.

The results of the survey are being released to coincide with National Child Passenger Safety Week Feb. 9-15. The event is intended to remind motorists of the importance of properly installing child safety seats and booster seats.

Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among children in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A total of 1,579 children age 14 and younger died in car crashes in 2002 and approximately 228,000 were injured, NHTSA statistics report. That equals an average of 30 deaths and more than 4,300 injuries each week.

Locally, the survey was a mixed blessing as 65.9 percent of local motorists who could be using safety and booster seats are now using them.

“That’s up from 30 percent just two years ago,” Deeb said.

She said getting local motorists to consistently use child safety seats has been a challenge.

“It may be because we live in such a rural setting and everything is so close by that they don’t feel they need to use them,” Deeb said.

However, she said statistics indicate the opposite – that short trips can be just as dangerous as long journeys.

“Most accidents happen within five minutes of your home,” Deeb said.

As part of Child Passenger Safety Week this year, child safety advocates will educate the public and child care providers about child safety issues, including the use of booster seats,

Fewer than 10 percent of the children who should be in booster seats actually use one, according to state statistics.

A booster seat lifts a child so a safety belt can fit correctly. Without the seat, a small child can be ejected from a car or pickup truck in a crash.

Under state law, motorists must keep their children in either a safety seat or an approved booster seat until they are either 6 years old or weigh 60 pounds. After that, motorists are advised not to let the child ride in the front seat until they are older than 12.

For more information on child safety seat use or purchasing a low cost seat, call Deeb at 636-4011.

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